Inquest to rule on gold bounty

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IT IS the stuff treasure hunters' dreams are made of. Nigel Wilding and his father-in-law, John Sutton, were scouring a beach in East Yorkshire when, they claim, they discovered a rare gold sword pommel thought to be worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.

While Mr Sutton swept the beach with his pounds 500 hi-tech metal detector, Mr Wilding chanced upon the pommel using his father-in-law's spare, a second-hand children's detector bought at a car boot sale.

Indeed it was only a twist of fate that saw 25-year-old Mr Wilding pick up the detector at all. He had earlier been fishing but gave up after failing to catch anything. The men, both from the Hull area, say they found the early 7th-centurySaxon pommel, believed to have belonged to a king, inside a clay boulder near Aldbrough last November. At first they thought it was part of a cigarette lighter.

A treasure trove inquest is being held in Hull to investigate the circumstances of the find and determine ownership.

Craig Barclay, acting senior curator of the Yorkshire Museum in York, said the pommel, which is less than 2in long, has a bronze centre with 81 per cent gold filigree sheeting over it. "It is undoubtedly of national importance," he added.

The inquest was due to be heard earlier this year, but was adjourned for further inquiries after a letter arrived, expressing concerns about the time and location of the find. There were then several challenges to the men's claims about where the pommel was found, including one from the Centre for Wetland Archaeology.

Under the 1996 Treasure Act, a reward may be paid to the finder, the occupier of the land where it was found and anyone with an interest in the land.

The inquest continues today.